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Euro 2024: The group stage´s lucky winners and unlucky losers

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 28 Jun 2024

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The Euro 2024 group stage is done and dusted.

Croatia were the biggest name to fail to make the knockouts, as they and Hungary were the two third-placed sides to miss out on the last 16.

Previous finalists Italy and England progressed along with the likes of hosts Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, though some nations were more fortunate to advance than others.

Here, we use Opta data to assess the unlucky losers and the lucky winners from the Euro 2024 group stage, both in terms of individual matches and the first phase of the tournament as a whole.

UNLUCKY LOSERS

Croatia

Let’s start with the tournament’s biggest expected goals (xG) underperformers so far… and the big-name casualty of the group stage.

Luka Modric became the oldest player to score at the Euros in the tournament’s history on matchday three, and that goal against Italy seemed to be sending Croatia through from Group B, only for Mattia Zaccagni to rescue the Azzurri late on.

That 1-1 draw condemned Croatia to third place. But they were highly unfortunate not to take more than two points.

They lost 3-0 to a rampant Spain on matchday one, despite accumulating 2.38 xG to La Roja’s 2.01. They then amassed 2.69 xG against Albania, only to concede late on in a 2-2 draw.

Indeed, Croatia finished with an accumulative xG total of 6.55, which leads the tournament, yet they only managed three goals.

Defensively, they can consider themselves unfortunate too. Croatia conceded six goals from an xG against (xGA) of 4.37, though their 15 shots on target faced does rank joint-fifth worst. Ultimately, Zlatko Dalic’s team allowed too many efforts on goal, and they paid the price for profligate finishing at the other end.

Czechia

Czechia finished bottom of Group F, with Georgia the surprise package as they stunned Portugal to claim third place.

Despite not winning a match, Czechia recorded 5.11 xG in total, the sixth-highest figure in the tournament.

Interestingly, the four Group F teams (Portugal, Turkiye, Georgia and Czechia) all rank in the top nine for xG so far.

Czechia converted that xG into just three goals, though, with Patrik Schick – who shared the Golden Boot with Cristiano Ronaldo at Euro 2020 – failing to spark like he did three years ago.

But, we can’t pin Czechia’s failure on their finishing. Their xG on target (xGoT) of 6.01 shows they were forcing opposition goalkeepers into action, with Ivan Hasek’s team leading the way for shots on target (20, equal with Germany). Czechia’s 6.82% shot conversion rate was the lowest in Group F, though.

Ukraine

For the first time in the history of the Euros, four teams in one pool all finished level – that was in Group E, with Romania, Belgium, Slovakia and Ukraine all collecting four points.

Ukraine were the unfortunate team to miss out, as they became the first side in Euros history to finish bottom of the group while earning four points. Ouch.

What do the metrics say? Well, they should probably have scored a goal more than the two they managed, having accumulated 3.07 xG. Their shot conversion rate of 5.13% ranks 19th out of 24, though.

At the other end of the pitch, even though they only had a total xGA of 2.95 across the three games, they were punished by some quality finishing from Romania in an opening 3-0 defeat, which ultimately proved decisive in their exit.

LUCKY WINNERS

Italy

It’s a good job for the holders that Zaccagni curled in late on against Croatia. If not, and if results in other groups had gone as they have done, then the Azzurri would not have made it through as one of the best third-placed teams.

As it was, they did get that crucial goal against Croatia, despite mustering just 0.9 xG, so they made it through in second and will now face Switzerland in the last 16.

With Germany, Spain, France and Portugal on the other side of the bracket, could a path be opening up for Luciano Spalletti’s team to defend their title, against the odds?

Italy generated just 2.62 xG across their three games, the sixth-lowest in the competition, while they have only had nine shots on target, more than only Scotland (three), Serbia (six) and Slovenia (seven).

They are on the kinder half of the draw, but it’s fair to say they are fortunate to be there.

Georgia

It is fantastic to see tournament debutants Georgia make it into the knockouts, and based on their performance against Portugal, in a 2-0 win, it is hard to say they didn’t deserve it.

Georges Mikautadze is the first player to score or assist in each of his first three games at the European Championship since Gareth Bale for Wales in 2016, and as it stands, he is also the unlikely leader in the Golden Boot race.

That being said, the metrics do not reflect particularly well on Willy Sagnol’s team, who have been defensively wide open, facing a tournament-high 71 shots, with 25 of those (another competition high) hitting the target. In fact, they have given up over 3.0 xG in two of their three matches so far.

They have been hugely reliant on goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili, who has prevented the most goals of any shot-stopper in the tournament based on Opta’s xGoT model (four goals conceded from 7.6 xGoT).

Mamardashvili is likely to have to be on top form again if Georgia are to shock Spain on Sunday.

Going the other way, Georgia have only had 26 shots (only Scotland, with 17, managed fewer), but their shot conversion rate is an impressive 15.38%, the third-highest in the tournament.

You have to have luck on your side to win a tournament, but is this going to be sustainable in the knockouts?

England

Much has been made of England’s poor performances in Germany, considering the attacking talent Gareth Southgate has at his disposal.

And the metrics do support those moans and groans – the Three Lions’ 2.19 xG is the third-lowest in the competition.

However, they also have the stingiest defence, having kept two clean sheets and given up just 1.15 xG.

England, though, have certainly been fortunate that Denmark, Serbia and Slovenia hardly offered the sternest of opponents in Group C. They have landed in the kinder half of the draw, but it’s time for the pre-tournament favourites to click into gear.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SoccerNews

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